Natural killer cells: from CD3(-)NKp46(+) to post-genomics meta-analyses

Curr Opin Immunol. 2007 Jun;19(3):365-72. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2007.04.004. Epub 2007 Apr 17.


The original definition of NK cells was based on their 'natural' cytolytic response against tumor cells and virus-infected cells in the absence of specific immunization. However, the term 'natural killer' reflects neither the education/maturation requirements before NK cells can kill nor the entirety of their biological functions. In light of new functional assays, genetic models and genomics analysis, we propose a more accurate definition of NK cells. This definition includes the phenotypical identification of NK cells as CD3(-)NKp46(+) cells across mammalian species. In general, this attempt to redefine NK cells also highlights the need to update the operational definition of cell types in the post-genomic area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD3 Complex / immunology*
  • CD3 Complex / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Natural Cytotoxicity Triggering Receptor 1
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism


  • CD3 Complex
  • NCR1 protein, human
  • Natural Cytotoxicity Triggering Receptor 1
  • Receptors, Immunologic